The Return of Beatnik Legend Terry Taylor

On Wednesday (26 September) I did an event to promote Terry Taylor’s republished novel Baron’s Court, All Change, a book I’ve been championing for the past decade. The book was first issued in hardback back in 1961 when novelists weren’t expected to make endless promotional appearances, so I could appreciate that Terry – who is a very youthful 79 – didn’t want to get involved in all that. I was, however, pleased when he decided to travel down to London for the event. I checked with Terry before we started to see if he was alright with me mentioning he was in the audience, and he said this was okay.
So after a brief introduction from Malcolm Hopkins of Housmans Bookshop in Kings X, I outlined the plot of this classic London youth culture novel and talked a little about Terry’s prose. The story line that most interests me concerns the unnamed 16 year-old modernist jazz freak narrator getting into first smoking and then dealing charge (pot). I found out later after talking to Terry that this strand originally made up the bulk of the novel – but his editors had insisted he add in more of the narrator’s family background. This additional material works well enough but it is more conventional and not as ahead of its time as the rest of the book.
What is truly incredible about Baron’s Court, All Change is the prose – which is really fresh, direct and not at all hung up on literary style. The vitality of the writing really makes it stand out from everything else published in London between the mid-fifties and the mid-sixties. It is on a par with the best of American beat literature but unashamedly written in a working class London accent (with plenty of hipster slang) – and while closer in spirit to Jack Kerouac than the UK’s most famous beat Alex Trocchi, it is just as good as Cain’s Book but very different from Troochi’s more mannered prose! And while I really dig Cain’s Book, I don’t wish I’d actually written it but I do wish I’d written Baron’s Court, All Change!
After I’d rapped for a bit, Iphgenia Baal read one of three passages I’d chosen from the book to break up my talk with a very different voice to my south London monotone. The first passage I’d picked describes Terry’s unnamed narrator having his first taste of wacky baccy. It was fantastic hearing Baron’s Court being read out loud really professionally in front of an audience – it sounded absolutely fabulous. I then talked a bit about some of the legends surrounding Terry before Iphgenia read a passage from his novel set in a jazz club where the unnamed narrator is persuaded he should get into dope dealing. After further words from me, Iphgenia wrapped up our formal – albeit quite casual – presentation of Terry’s novel by reading a section of the book that covers the junkie scene, something the narrator wants nothing to do with….
We took a few questions from the floor and since I wasn’t able to answer them all correctly, Terry filled in from the audience. One question was about why ‘Jazz’ and ‘Charge’ are capitalised throughout the book. My incorrect guess based on my own experience of publishing was that Terry’s editor thought it would make them appear more dramatic. Terry corrected me by saying that the capitalisation was his idea because Jazz and Charge are as important to the narrator as God is to other people. Speaking off-the-cuff from the audience in an event dedicated to him seemed to me like a perfect non-return to public life for Terry Taylor; he writes brilliantly about being a hipster because first and foremost he’s lived his life as one! And like all those who are truly mad for kicks and living life to the full, that’s necessitated him staying out of the spotlight!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by Ian Long on 2012-09-28 20:39:29 +0000

It would be interesting to know what kind of music Terry listens to now – and which records inspired him at the time he wrote the novel.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-09-28 22:32:44 +0000

Well obviously he was listening to the stuff he mentions in the book – Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker being among the more obvious, and he also mentions liking Jelly Roll Morton despite that being unhip… and I know he still has a love of modern jazz and still goes to jazz festivals. Terry also from time to time sends me links to pieces of jazz he really likes!

Comment by Rick Monks on 2012-09-29 00:29:10 +0000

I was at the talk on Wednesday and reading this I have a strange sense of deja vu!

Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-09-29 07:25:18 +0000

It was jolly fantastic and I gave Terry a kiss!!

Comment by Simon Jones on 2012-09-29 15:58:16 +0000

I thought Terry Taylor was an American wrestler until I read this blog!

Comment by George Wise on 2012-09-29 17:18:10 +0000

Terry Taylor is a beatnik legend because he turned on half of swinging London before LSD was made illegal!

Comment by Bilko on 2012-09-29 18:21:24 +0000

Ted Taylor made some great soul recordings.

Comment by Holden Caulfield on 2012-09-29 19:28:29 +0000

Terry Taylor makes Jack Kerouac look like an uptight alcoholic who couldn’t walk it the way he talked it in On The Road!

Comment by Mark Turner on 2012-09-29 22:13:01 +0000

Is Terry Taylor related to Roger Taylor who you also interview on your site and say like Terry was a friend of your mother in the 1960s?

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-09-30 15:25:18 +0000

Terry Taylor and Roger Taylor aren’t related as far as I know (and if so it could only be very distantly) – and I’m also pretty sure they’ve never met. My mother was friends with Roger Taylor circa 1962/3 and didn’t have much to do with him by the time she got close to Terry Taylor in the mid-sixties. Taylor is just a very common name in the UK.

Comment by Carl Fry on 2012-09-30 18:35:24 +0000

If this was Terry Taylor’s first semi-public appearance how could it be his return?

Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-09-30 20:17:08 +0000

It was a very good event, and I thought Terry looked great. He put me in mind of the drummer Phil Seaman (1926-1972) – or rather photos of him, because I never saw him in the flesh in his prime. I put the comparison to Terry who, having met Seaman, didn’t disagree about the similar Face.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-09-30 22:03:37 +0000

I can see what you mean about Terry and Phil Seaman looking similar… I don’t know much of Seaman’s jazz work but I am familiar with some of what he did with those who came out of the British blues scene of the 1960s….
@ Carl Fry – I don’t know if Terry made any public appearances to promote his book in the 1960s, but I wouldn’t rule out radio or even TV. The event on Wednesday was the closest thing there’s been to a launch for the new edition of Baron’s Court so it is his return at least in terms of his book appearing again after being out of print for about 45 years!

Comment by Walter Paisley on 2012-09-30 23:26:08 +0000

Is this the start of a beatnik revival?

Comment by Nelson ‘Spider’ Willis on 2012-10-01 01:26:17 +0000

Is that Walter “Butch” Paisley commenting on this blog – the famous harness driving champion – or just some loser who happens to have the same name?

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-10-01 14:20:54 +0000

Spider I don’t think that’s your friend Butch, it looks more like somebody having a bubble bath to me. Dick Miller played a character called Walter Paisley in a number of films but did so for the first time and most famously in the beatnik spoof A Bucket Of Blood! That film came out in 1959 – the same year your chum Butch made his name in harness racing and I’m wondering if Roger Corman and his crew found Butch so ridiculous as a character than they named the lead character in their film Bucket Of Blood after him…..

Comment by Basher The Beatnik on 2012-10-01 15:12:00 +0000

Beatnik revival? More like renewal. Beatniks never went away and are here to stay!

Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-10-01 17:08:22 +0000

I’ve frequently come across tired-arse references to Arthur Rimbaud as a proto-hippie but perhaps he was the first Beatnik? He liked a good howl, went on the road and thought there were far more important things to life than writing – for which you’ve to to get yourself in a pathological position for hours on end. It was said of Rimbaud’s work: this is poetry, the rest is but literature. Was this because he wrote, not sitting, standing or lying down, but spinning.

Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-10-02 09:10:13 +0000

T M i t I M think my dad must be Beatnik he has novel stashed away but reckons his life is too short to actually be working on it or writing it-I may have to dredge it out of where ever he has stored it and take a looky-could be a Lampedusa type one off classic-you never know!! I have never actually looked into Rimbaud but you may have prompted me. Like I say if you have any written material I would be interested to see as I have been most enjoying your input. As ever I am most enjoying Mr Trippy’s blog and comments-brightening up my day! 🙂

Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-10-02 15:36:55 +0000

Ms Lucy – I am a poet without a text so have no ‘written material’. The Word Was Made Flesh but I have yet to get any. No cause for sadness – I merely copy other people’s words like when Mr Trippy gives me space: everything is from somewhere else. Poetry is made by all not by one, as Lautreamont said. Like Rimbaud L’s one of my household gods/penates. He also said: Plagiarism is progress… Your father sounds like an interesting chap. He puts me in mind of Moominpappa, the memoir-writing character from the Tove Jansson children’s books. There’s more wit and wisdom in a page of the Moomintroll Family Saga than in the whole of the Booker Shit-list.

Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-10-02 17:40:20 +0000

I love a Moomin! And Babapapa but that is another story…

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-10-02 22:52:58 +0000

And Rimbaud crops up everywhere – even in a sub-Bond attempt to make karate champ Joe Lewis the new Bruce Lee. I mean the over-financed b-movie Jaguar Lives from 1979 where one of the characters says something like ‘to borrow a title from Rimbaud I’ve had my season in hell…” Although younger and more recent viewers of this not so golden oldie may mishear Rimbaud as Rambo and be thinking of Sylvester Stallone. For me it was all downhill for Stallone after his supporting role in Death Race 2000.

Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-10-03 09:03:17 +0000

These popular cultural appropriations of Rimbaud are far more interesting than those by Dylan, Patti Smith et al. Richard Hell I have more time for as it was Rimbaud’s hairstyle he appropriated rather than the poetry – an impossible task tho Jack Spicer has a good stab in A FAKE NOVEL ABOUT THE LIFE OF ARTHUR RIMBAUD.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-10-03 10:29:24 +0000

Richard Hell’s haircut was the best thing about him – and the worst semi-popular cultural appropriation of Rimbaud was the use of his name by that twit from Crass, although I understand it was a parody of Tom Verlaine of Television (a band Richard Hell was once in). So that takes us full circle for another season on hell!
“The wicked walk in a circle, not because their life runs circularly, but because their false doctrine runs round in a circular maze.” St. Augustine.

Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-10-03 14:50:56 +0000

Is that why there are Circles of Hell in Dante?

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-10-04 22:21:40 +0000

Good question – & unfortunatley I don’t know the answer, but someone else must!

Comment by Jim Lawrence on 2012-10-10 16:29:08 +0000

I’d not heard of Terry Taylor before, but as a lover of hipster prose and Beat stories, I’m glad to have been turned on to him. Cheers, Mister T.

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